The Phil Gammage Quartet will appear January 12 in Harlem at the BluesCraft Winter Festival. Shrine World Music Venue at 2271 7th Ave, New York, New York 10030.
The new single and it’s video are here. Filmed in Kingston, NY and Wildwood, NJ. Phil talked with No Depression “The Journal of Roots Music” about it and his recent tour of Europe a few weeks ago.
Never Mind Godot: Phil Gammage is “Waiting for My Baby”
BY TOM SEMIOLI
There is one other day that will live in infamy: August 1, 1981- the day MTV forged its debut on a platform known as cable television. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Sure, music promo clips were nothing new, but MTV made the “music video” a necessary evil – or godsend, depending on your disposition. At the time MTV emerged, I was a young bass player for hire, doing sessions and gigs in New York City when – all of a sudden – every club had a video screen and folks were fixated on the pomp and circumstance that defined the genre! Producers, agents, and bandleaders were asking how tall I was, how much I weighed, and how much hair I had. Fortunately, I was strong in all those departments. Oh, and I could play bass too!
Nearly forty years later, music videos are still a necessary component of an artist’s canon. The daunting task is to capture the aura of a song on film.
Enter Phil Gammage.
Gammage – in collaboration with David Schell – create videos that are also works of art. Sure, Phil and David are not the first to do it, and certainly not the last – however their cinematic artistry is, in a word, timeless. Their latest clip, which could have come out in 1955 or perhaps 2025, is also Phil’s latest single, “Waiting for My Baby.”
Before he embarked on a solo career, which now spans eight albums since 1990, Gammage co-founded The Corvairs and Certain General – two acclaimed ensembles worthy of your exploration. Phil’s continued presence on the New York City music is a blessing – no gimmicks, no posturing – just the best Americana blues this side of the Mississippi, and probably the other side too.
Tell me about the track “Waiting for My Baby” doesn’t this one go back a few years?
Yeah, I’d been kicking that one around for a year or so. It’s a one-chord boogie shuffle except for the harp solo toward the end. I can’t get any simpler with lyrics than I did with this song. I was going for that minimalism thing. Groove and melody, yes sir.
A new single! From a forthcoming album perhaps? If so, what can we expect from another Gammage platter?
I wrote and released three albums in the past four years, the most recent of those being ‘Used Man For Sale’ — so I’m taking my time before I ease into another recording project. I’m currently writing a new collection of songs and we’ll see where it leads me.
Once again, your moving images exemplify the power of black and white! Talk about how this platform exudes a timeless veneer.
Everything I create visually to go with my music seems to look better in black and white. It’s my comfort zone and I can’t imagine creating music videos in color at this point. I like the starkness of it and of course I dig the retro feel.
Talk about the sparse arrangement for this track.
I played several shows in the past year as a duo — myself with a drummer. That combination works well with my style of music so that is how we recorded the basic tracks for this song. There is a bass guitar on the track that I played later but it’s low in the mix.
Your longtime collaborator Roger Stoltz is the only other musician on the track – why did you work with Roger on this cut?
Roger has the steady touch that can bring my songs to life. He is a very lyrical drummer and percussionist who really listens. He doesn’t over play, which is an important thing for me.
Share with me some of the highlights of your recent European trek – did that inspire any new tunes?
Among my U.K. shows, playing a house concert in Kennington, London was one. The audience was fantastic and they were very knowledgeable about my music. Plus, it was a fun party afterwards! I hadn’t performed in London in a long time. Getting back to Paris and Rouen in France was another. Overall the tour couldn’t have gone much better for me.
Talk about working with David on this video, and the inspiration behind the imagery.
Yes, this is another collaboration with David Schell. The indoor lip synch performance was filmed in Kingston, New York at his Green Kill artist space. It’s a great venue and I recently played a concert there. Several people contributed to the filming… Lynne Stone was a huge help with synching the audio to our cinematography. We were going for the David Lynch vibe and I feel like we succeeded. We wanted it to be a nighttime video, and very noir. All of the outdoor footage was filmed in Wildwood on the Jersey Shore.
Tell me about the two ingenues in the clip, Jacquelyn Schnakenberg and Cara Gentry – what do they represent?
They are Hudson Valley based actresses who originally weren’t going to be featured but who took on bigger rolls as the shoot progressed. We used them to contribute to the overall vibe and help define the ambiance. Sometimes all they do is just sit around and smoke cigarettes, but it’s all good.
Explain the $50 tip!
That idea was Philip DeMartino’s, the actor who gives me the tip in the video. When I saw that sequence in editing I was pleased to see how well it worked so I kept it in.
Your performance work ethic mixes ensemble performances featuring bassist Anne Husick, drummer Roger Stoltz, and harmonica player David Fleming, among others, with solo shows – which do you prefer? What are the advantages of each? What are the pitfalls?
I love them both. I’ve performed solo much more this year than years past. Obviously, the shows in Europe were solo, but I’ve played a lot of them here as well. Solo you have certain freedoms that you don’t have when playing in an ensemble. There is a one on one intimacy with the audience that is powerful. But, of course you’re limited by what one person can do playing instruments and singing alone. There is something very special about the collective energy of like-minded musicians playing music together — any kind of music. The interplay between everyone, the chemistry… at its best it can be awe-inspiring and there’s nothing else like it.
What have you got planned for the remainder of 2018?
Playing more festivals with the band and going back to Europe!
Phil Gammage “Waiting for My Baby” Video
Phil Gammage “Waiting for My Baby” single is out now!
For all things Phil Gammage: www.philgammagemusic.com
The new Phil Gammage single is here and available exclusively at Bandcamp. “Waiting For My Baby” was recorded im NYC and features Roger Stoltz on drums.
Order here https://philgammage.bandcamp.com/track/waiting-for-my-baby-single
One of the highlights of my recent European solo tour was performing a private and intimate house concert in Kennington, London. Here’s a review of it from the U.K.’s Hoopinanhollerin.
‘Live at Hotel Gurbington, Kennington.’
This was a rare chance to see Phil Gammage playing in London as part of a whistle stop four show tour of London and France, his first London shows for 33 years since he toured here with Certain General back in the day. This show was at Kennington’s most exclusive pop up venue by invite only from Bhob Dhillon who I have known long enough to get an invite for which I am very thankful.
So this exclusive audience was made up of the usual gigaholics you’d expect to see, several of whom like myself had seen Certain General back in the day and few who wished they had.
Phil was playing a borrowed Fender through a vox amp and turned to a low volume as Phil sang without a microphone but was plenty loud enough for this venue he opened his set with a rather cool laid back version of Baby, Let Me Follow You Down to gently warm us all up.
He then played another song from the Adventures In Bluesland album and a nice take on Ain’t That Something that had his rich voice filling the room with the sad tale within the song. We then got the title song from his most recent album Used Man For Sale that had some really nice laid back blues licks to accompany his vocals.
It was then time for a great version of In The Pines that would have been the song I’d have requested if Phil hadn’t played it, his rich honeyed voice really brings something to this song that many of the people who’ve sung it over the years fail to do it was very cool to hear it while watching Phil strum his guitar on the sofa he was perched on.
We then got the first song of the set that Phil almost never sings live and a beautiful version of Only A Dream from Certain Generals classic album November’s Heat that worked really well stripped back to a gothic blues. Then it was time for a cool Willie Nelson cover and a down home version of Nightlife that was more back porch blues than floor filler.
Phil then saved Wayfaring Stranger from the ignominy of people thinking it’s an Ed Sheeran song by really bringing the country blues to it and making it sound almost like a gospel shouter although Phil was certainly singing rather than shouting.
Shed My Skin was about the most unfamiliar song of the set to me anyway but like everything else it sounded really great in this stripped back setting. It was then time for Phil to ask One Kind favour of us to See That His Grave is Kept Clean and he played a really cool version of this classic that I’ve heard lots of great live versions of and this was a great impassioned take on it.
He then went back to Certain General’s November’s Heat for a very stripped back version of Sympathy that really made us listen to the lyrics. We then got another song from Used Man For Sale that I think was Arms Of A Kind Woman sorry if I got this one wrong.
What Tomorrow Brings helped bring us towards the end of the set and Phil started to thank us all for showing up before he closed the set with a bit of a sing along to Goodnight Irene a song I last heard played in Kennington by Michelle Shocked back in the day when The Cricketers was still a thriving venue although Phil still played guitar and didn’t go for the acapella approach so many people take to this old Weavers classic.
Of course Phil got an encore and went for some classic advert music with a lovely version of O Sole Mio that was a very cool end to a very nice set that left all the invited guests very happy indeed.
Phil Gammage performs showcase gigs this April in the U.K. and France.
Sunday April 8, 6pm London
24 Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell
Friday April 13, 9pm Paris
La Planete Mars
44 Rue de la Folie Merincourt
Saturday April 14, Cleon
37 rue Luis Corvalan
Watch Phil’s new music video “Used Man For Sale” and read his interview with music journalist Tom Semioli at the Huffington Post.
Black and white, it’s the latest old new thing! – Phil Gammage
Phil is featured in the New York Times, November 27, 2017 article about the downtown New York music scene.
I’ll be performing at the very popular Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival on March 10, 2018. This is one of America’s top festivals held annually in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Phil Gammage Quartet perform two shows — 5:15pm and 7:45pm at the Chameleon Club Lounge. Also performing are NRBQ, Samantha Fox, Magic Dick (J. Geils Band), and many others.
Advance tickets here:
Seeking male & female background actors ages 18 to 50 in retro attire/dress for Phil Gammage music video filming at Green Kill (229 Greenkill Ave., Kingston, NY) on Saturday night, Oct. 21, 11pm. Please read invite for more details: facebook.com/events/871810073000182/